Governor Cuomo Addresses Penalizing Dangerous Tractor Trailer Operators
Governor Andrew Cuomo was in Buffalo addressing the Western New York blizzard of last week and associated dangerous road conditions. Governor Cuomo discussed the ban on buses and tractor trailers on major state highways, such as the I-90, New York State Thruway. After tractor-trailers contributed to a large pileup on I-90 he described truckers violating the ban as “a disgrace for these tractor – trailer drivers to be violating the ban and people lives in danger” While in the DOT barn in Lancaster, New York, he discussed imposing more severe penalties for truckers who violate driving bans, in the future.
Most truckers observed the ban; in fact, more than 100 were in a popular truck stop, Jim’s Truck Plaza, in Cheektowaga, New York, with some 18 wheelers parked in an overflow lot next door. The tractor-trailer ban was lifted Thursday, January 31. In Ontario, Canada trucks were weathering the storm at the Flying J truck stop on Gilmore Road in Fort Erie, Ontario waiting to cross the Peace Bridge into Buffalo and the US.
There were plenty of accidents, with two major pileups on I-90, involving tractor-trailers violating the travel ban. Unfortunately, in one of the pileups, a New York State Trooper trying to protect the public was unnecessarily injured. It happened east of Batavia, New York in Genesee County near mile marker 382, eastbound. A tractor-trailer jackknifed, striking a police car operated by trooper Dominique Wilson, pushing the trooper’s car into the roadway, where it was sideswiped by another errant tractor-trailer, causing needless personal injury and destruction.
What most government officials, and many attorneys, even personal injury lawyers, don’t know, is that driving in very inclement weather is often a direct violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act (FMCSA). Section 392.14 requires truckers and drivers of other commercial vehicles to exercise “extreme caution” when hazardous conditions exist. This safety violation must be complied with. Hazardous conditions under the rule includes snow, ice, sleet, mist, fog, dust, smoke, rain, which adversely affect visibility or traction. The rule requires the truck driver or commercial vehicle driver to reduce speed when these conditions exist. And, if these conditions such as snow, ice or rain become sufficiently dangerous the operator is required to stop driving and cannot resume until the big rig can be safely operated.
This is significant in a personal injury lawsuit, because the violation of the FMCSA safety rule helps show negligence or dangerous driving on the part of the truck driver and trucking company.
This is especially important in Erie County, Niagara County, Genesee County, Monroe County, Chautauqua County, Oneida County, and areas around Buffalo, Batavia, Rochester and Syracuse, because of the frequent lake effect snow bands and snow squalls coming off of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. Many truckers are under pressure by trucking companies to keep moving their loads, even under hazardous weather conditions.
As a truck accident attorney, I have looked at many “independent contractor” agreements for the trucker who acts as an owner operator, driving for other companies, often through a broker. These owner operators can feel severe financial pressure to keep moving to have enough money to pay their overhead for the truck, insurance, repairs, maintenance and fees of the company they may be driving for.
Last week, the weather was uncontrollable, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz described the driving ban violations by truckers is the biggest uncontrollable matter facing the county outside of the inclement weather. The fact is, when blizzard conditions and white outs exist, there are no safe following distances, it is impossible to identify lanes on the thruway or on the road, and trying to stop is difficult, sometimes impossible. Both cars and big rigs, especially 18 wheelers should be off the road until it is safe to proceed.
Special laws apply to commercial vehicles and when accidents or crashes occur involving big rigs such as tractor-trailers, buses, or other commercial vehicles, they must be addressed to evaluate a personal injury claim or injury lawsuit. If you were a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a truck or commercial vehicle you should contact a personal injury attorney with extensive experience handling truck accident lawsuits. You can call Feroleto Law and speak confidentially with truck accident attorney John Feroleto who can discuss your options and how you can protect yourself and your family.